By Sarah Knepp, For The Miami Student
Two Miami University alumni recently visited Oxford, but not for the traditional trip to Bagel and Deli or a stroll around campus. The visit was for business.
Tessa Husain and Christina Janczak ('13) returned to Oxford to promote their new business, a social media app called Whooley.
The two envisioned the idea at Skipper's Pub during fall of their senior year, Husain and Janczak said. They were talking about their social lives and different friends when an important question came up.
"'What if we could visualize all the different parties going on on any given night with all of our different groups of friends?'" Janczak asked.
And from there, the platform for Whooley was established. The two friends wanted to create a way to easily manage their friend groups and what those groups were doing on any given night.
"We decided we wanted to create this exclusive network of friends that you actually hang out with and you can easily create groups with them," Husain said.
Husain and Janczak immediately began working to make their ideas tangible by getting a team together in September 2012.
"We worked with our development team every week to implement it during our senior year," Husain said.
After graduation, Husain returned to her home in the Washington, D.C. area, while Janczak went back to the suburbs of Chicago. Shortly after, they decided to give Whooley a makeover and focus their attention on making Whooley a successful, usable app.
"Christina [Janczak] moved out here [to Washington, D.C.], so we knew this was going to be our full-time job," Husain said.
In September 2013, after hiring a development team in Ukraine to help them, Husain and Janczak were able to focus on developing the app and getting it ready for release.
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Whooley allows users to connect with their friend groups casually and easily.
"Within these groups, you can create 'Whooleys' instead of events, because events have that connotation that they have to be a big planned thing, but Whooleys can be anything," Husain said. "They can be spontaneous. You can create Whooleys with different groups of friends and then see which friends are there in real time."
The real time feature of the app allows students to display their location on Whooley and see the location of their friends.
"The big thing here is that Whooley communicates for you your friends' locations and where to go without having to constantly check in with your friends," Husain said.
Whooley was released in June. Users have the ability to easily manage the many different activities Miami students are involved in, from social circles to study groups.
"We really focused on this huge social community among Miami," Husain said.
The Miami social scene served as the inspiration for Whooley and the elements of the app.
"A lot of our features are based on our experiences at Miami, both socially and academically," Janczak said.
The week of Sept. 15, Husain and Janczak returned to Miami in order to promote their new app. The visit resulted in 300 more users added to the Whooley network that, at the time, had 600 users.
The main objective of the visit was to spread the word about the app and hone in on their marketing strategy.
"We have the most connections at Miami, so it was easier to start there," Husain said.
Campus ambassadors were also a huge part of the marketing push that Husain and Janczak participated in during their few days at Miami.
"We currently have 20 campus ambassadors that hopefully will help promote this and spread it more," Husain said. "We want raw feedback from the ambassadors and we want them to help us prioritize new features."
Campus ambassadors, like junior Emily Parsons, work to promote Whooley and relay student opinions to Husain and Janczak.
"As a Whooley ambassador, I promote the app by creating Whooley events and encouraging people to download the app," Parsons said. "We have weekly meetings with the creators to give our feedback on the app and set new goals for each week."
Husain and Janczak's plans for the future are to keep promoting Whooley and make sure the user numbers grow, especially among various on-campus groups.
"We will most likely go back to Miami for a little bit to do a big push and transfer it more among Greek life and other organizations," Husain said.
Husain and Janczak also want to draw more national attention to Whooley and get the word out about their brand.
"We're going to start building a presence among the tech industry itself, as well as investors and the press," Husain said.
So far, Whooley has been around for just three months and has experienced a good amount of success. As of Sept. 23, 2014, Whooley had reached just over 1200 users.
"I think this app will become the next big thing once more people download it," Parsons said. "I use the app every day to find my friends and decide where to go at night. It eliminates the annoying texts between friends to make plans and see who is there or not and when everyone is going."
Husain and Janczak are confident in the fact that Whooley will be set apart from other apps that are developed and never flourish.
"A lot of other apps are more specific to certain things, but we wanted to create this social network that is specific to those smaller communities," Husain said. "I think that's why we will be set apart, because we have so many features that encompass it.